Chapter 135. Doctor Who – Delta and the Bannermen (1989)

Synopsis: An unexpected holiday for the Doctor and Mel sees them joining a race of shape-changing aliens at a holiday camp in 1950s Wales. Also in the party is a beautiful woman on the run from bloodthirsty killers – and a spy only too happy to betray her. Soon, the holiday camp is the scene for a massacre, retribution… and romance.

Chapter Titles

The chapters are numbered One to Thirty-Two. With additional prologue and epilogue, this steals the record from The Romans for most number of chapters in a novelisation.

Background: Malcolm Kohll adapts his own scripts for a story from 1987. This followed Paradise Towers on TV, so that’s another pair of stories to be released consecutively.

Notes: A prologue reveals that the Doctor takes one sugar in his tea. The TARDIS is in need of a ‘major overhaul’. Now that he’s less burly than his previous incarnation, Mel has stopped forcing carrot juice upon him and is happy to offer him digestive biscuits (which he declines as he doesn’t like how they collapse into his drink – such a beautiful ‘Doctorish’ moment there that I don’t think has ever actually been noted anywhere else). The Doctor keeps a kitty for loose change, which baffles him as it’s always empty. The Tollmaster is ‘a scaly alien wearing a spangly jacket and party hat’; he has ‘a fine set of large white teeth’ (a lovely evocation of Ken Dodd, who played him so memorably on telly). Mel claims she hasn’t been to Earth in ‘ages’, though she’s previously visited the planet Zoth and recognises paintings at the tollgate of ‘Solterns, Giboks and those funny little creatures the Wormese, who, without the aid of appendages of any kind, propel themselves along by the sheer force of their exhalations’. The Navarinos from ‘the tri-polar moon Navarro’ are ‘squat hairy beings which resemble artichokes’; Murray, the Nostalgia Tours pilot, is ‘ a round, leafy, hairy creature’. 

The Chimeron homeworld is called Chumeria – also known as ‘the Garden Planet of the Universe’. Chimerons are ‘soft and pupa-like’ and have ‘silvery-green skin and vivid blue eyes’. The two American agents are Lex Hawk and Jerome P Weismuller; Weismuller’s wife is called May. The ‘soldier of fortune’, Keillor’, knows of ‘the traveller called the Doctor’ (on TV, he knows the Doctor is a ‘traveller in time’). The Doctor has heard of Gavrok and ‘his violent ways’ – is he really the acidental tourist he’s pretending to be?

Outside Delta’s cabin, Billy hears Mels’ scream and shoulders the door open to see the Chimeron baby emerging from its shell (the telly version has him arrive shortly afterwards). Burton was a major in the army twenty years ago, when Vinny had served as his batman; they’ve worked together ever since. Among the party of Navarinos are Adlon, Crovassi, Diptek, Ethnon, Frag, Gil and Herret. Two of the Bannermen are named Arrex and Callon. The Doctor once rode a vehicle similar to Ray’s motorbike on the planet Themlon that left him ‘TARDIS-bound for a week afterwards’. According to Weismuller, Gavrok is ‘about seven feet tall’, though this comes as part of his otherwise rather exaggerated summary of his role in the battle against the Bannermen. In Billy’s chalet is a record player with a copy of ‘Gamblin’ Man’ by Lonnie Donegan. By the time he leaves with Delta, Billy has become ‘pure Chimeron’.

In the epilogue, having safely installed Delta and her child on the Chimeron brood planet, Billy delivers the surviving Bannermen to a galactic court before returning to his new home. The Bannermen decide that, should they ever find themselves free, they’ll set up a weaving collective to make rugs they can sell across the galaxy. Ray takes the Vincent aboard a ferry intent on exploring the world, while, on board the TARDIS, Mel subjects the Doctor to an old recording of Rock Around the Clock.

Infamously, a typo on page 54 presents the Doctor as ‘peeing’ over a shelf. The credits at the front of the book list Michael Ferguson, not Chris Clough, as the director (a hint at the story coming up next). Worst of all though, the spine on the first edition presented the title of the story as ‘Delta and the Bannerman’ – singular. This is corrected for the reprint, which lists the book as number ‘153’ in the library.

Cover: Alister Pearson’s artwork has echoes of Jeff Cummins’ cover for The Face of Evil as the Doctor’s face appears inside a circular frame, with the Shangri-La sign arching above, a Bannerman bearing his gun and the Sputnik satellite and the Chimeron egg at the bottom. Wonderfully, the composition forms the inverted silhouette of Mickey Mouse (hinting at the intended destination of the Navarino bus).

Final Analysis: There are people who don’t love Delta and the Bannermen (I know, right?) and they should be pitied. For the rest of us, we can also enjoy Malcolm Kohll’s sole entry in the Target library. All the joyful craziness of the TV episodes is present and correct, but like all the best authors for the range, Kohll enhances little details as he goes and the epilogue is delicious. In particular, the rather unconvincing romance at the heart of the story is boosted and Billy in particular is shown to be a young man of integrity and decency (especially in his pleading for a little mercy on behalf of the Bannermen at the Galactic Court).

Just a sidenote – back in The Two Doctors we were presented with, er, two Doctors who were resolute in their belief that Androgums cannot be augmented and will always revert to their baser qualities. It’s a rather worrying colonial view of an entire race, though there are actually few examples of aliens having much nuance generally in Doctor Who (the Ice Warriors are a notable exception). Here, while he offers a note of caution towards Billy’s decision to become a Chimeron, ultimately he wishes him well. We have a much more liberal interpretaton of the Doctor here, which feels much more like a ‘modern’ version, willing to be more compassionate and making allowance for personal choices. Delta and the Bannermen might be a little light as Doctor Who stories go, but it’s also an utter gem. I’d have liked to have seen Kohll’s approach to someone else’s scripts.

Chapter 134. Doctor Who – Paradise Towers (1988)

Synopsis: The residents of Paradise Towers have divided into factions: The caretakers tackle their duties with strict adherence to an insanely restrictive rulebook; the youngsters have formed warring gangs vying for supremacy; the oldsters are supplementing their diets with unspeakable things; … and then there’s Pex, a lonely, frightened boy trapped in the body of a brave hero. But Pex isn’t brave – he’s a cowardly cutlet.

Chapter Titles

  • 1. The Last of the Yellow Kangs
  • 2. No Visitors
  • 3. Tea and Cakes
  • 4. The Chief
  • 5. This Way and That
  • 6. Brainquarters
  • 7. Come into My Parlour
  • 8. The Illustrated Prospectus
  • 9. The Basement
  • 10. The Pool in the Sky
  • 11. Kroagnon
  • 12. Farewells

Background: Stephen Wyatt adapts his own scripts for a story from 1987. This is the first book not to be published as a hardback – the ‘library editions’ were dropped due to falling sales.

Notes: Paradise Towers is, as the back cover first confirms, a man-made planet, accessible via space-faring ships. The Doctor also refers to ‘Mel’s Earth’, and Mel compares Pex’s performance to Karate experts ‘back on Earth’, spelling out that this isn’t her world – although it’s still unclear whether or not the inhabitants originally came from there. The Yellow Kang confirms something that’s fudged on TV, that the Kang wars are not to be taken seriously, they are just games. She’s alone now, after a period of returning to the Yellow Kang Brainquarters to depreciating numbers of her fellow Kangmates. Streets named in the story are Sodium Street, Potassium Street, Nitrate Street, Sunrise Square and Fountain of Happiness Square. 

The young caretaker has only recently taken on his patrol beat, replacing an older caretaker who was (according to the Chief Caretaker) ‘assigned to other duties’ and never seen again. The Kangs are around 15 or 16 years old and they remind Mel of Samurai warriors. The Rezzies are dressed in clothes made up of colourful patchwork (and Mel notes that Tabby has very sharp teeth like a rat). Pex is much more the traditional action hero than we get on screen. He’s not tall, but ‘an imposing figure with a rugged jaw, piercing eyes and a powerful, muscular body’. He has a tattoo on his neck, he wears a ‘commando-style outfit’ and his voice is ‘deep and strong’. Despite all this, Mel still recognises that he’s putting on a show and is an outsider from all of the sub-groups in the Towers.

The Chief is of ‘middle height’ and his uniform was once grand but is now ‘somewhat faded and dusty’. He’s not a vain man and considers his looks to be unimportant. He has a  ‘sallow complexion and drooping black moustache’, and ‘ bloodshot but alert eyes’. The Chief isn’t keen on fresh air or exercise, regarding such activities as ‘futile, even actively harmful’. Pex tries to ward off the Blue Kangs with martial arts poses before they ridicule him. While watching the Paradise Towers prospectus on the videoscreen (or ‘Picturespout’, as the Kangs call it), the Doctor responds to the boasts of the prospectus narrator by thinking he’d rather spend a night locked in a hotel with the Daleks than live here. The Kangs are amazed to learn that there are other worlds without Rezzies or Kangs and are keen to hear about them from the Doctor. The Blue Kang leader is called ‘Drinking Fountain’. Viewed by Kroagnon on the Chief Caretaker’s screen, the Doctor’s face is said to look ‘strange’ and ‘intelligent’, but also ‘impish and insolent’.

Cover: The Doctor looms large as a robot cleaner passes walls strewn with graffiti. It’s a bold composition from Alister Pearson that has a similar basic layout to some of Achilleos’ greats, but with a more photorealistic approach.  For those that are counting, this is the first cover to feature the ‘current’ Doctor prominently in the artwork since Creature from the Pit in 1981 (aside from the photographic covers, the Fifth Doctor appeared within a montage for The Five Doctors and there’s a smudge in the sky representing the regeneration on The Caves of Androzani). This would appear to be down to McCoy himself being impressed by Pearson’s artwork and the way he captured the actor’s likeness. We’ll be seeing a lot of his work from now on…

Final Analysis: This really does the job very well, creating an entire literal world out of the limited sets we saw in the televised episodes. Scenes have been moved around or joined together, avoiding the more frenetic chopping about on telly. It also helps to be able to read the dialogue and make better sense of the sometimes quite convoluted mixed-up phrases of the Kangs. Wyatt also delves a little deeper into the strange relationship between the Chief Caretaker and his pet, making it more explicit that the Chief is being controlled by Kroagnon without his knowledge. He has been ever since he discovered his ‘pet’ in the basement of the Towers. While this explains the ‘how’, it doesn’t seek to justify the ‘why’. The Chief Caretaker was simply a weak man from the start, obsessive and callous, which just made him an easy vassal for the Great Architect to steer and manipulate. Paradise Towers is the perfect proper introduction to this Doctor, toppling an entire society in just a few hours, and Wyatt presents him as almost Holmesian, piecing together clues and improvising effective escapes and solutions from items he finds lying around him.

Chapter 127. Doctor Who – Time and the Rani (1988)

Synopsis: The Doctor has regenerated after an accident in his TARDIS, and his enemy the Rani is exploiting his post-regenerative confusion to gain his assistance with one of her experiments. As Mel explores the planet Lakertya and encounters the bat-like Tetraps, the Doctor seems to have forgotten something… who is he?

Chapter Titles

  • 1. Regeneration
  • 2. The New Doctor
  • 3. Death is Sprung
  • 4. Identity Crisis
  • 5. Collaborators All
  • 6. On With The Fray
  • 7. Haute Couture
  • 8. Visions of Greatness
  • 9. Face To Face
  • 10. A Kangaroo Never Forgets
  • 11. When Strangers Meet
  • 12. ‘You Know, Don’t You!’
  • 13. Rendezvous With a Tetrap
  • 14. The Centre of Leisure
  • 15. Exchange Is A Robbery
  • 16. The Twelfth Genius
  • 17. Selective Retribution
  • 18. Too Many Cooks
  • 19. Star Struck!
  • 20. Holy Grail
  • 21. A Dangerous Break
  • 22. Countdown
  • 23. Goodbye Lakertya

Background: Pip and Jane Baker adapt their own scripts for a story from 1987.

Notes: The opening chapter is a gift – the final scene featuring the sixth Doctor. As Mel is exercising, the Doctor finds he can’t control the TARDIS. There’s mention of the Hostile Action Displacement System [see The Krotons], which the Doctor has forgotten to set. His regeneration seems to be caused when he falls head first against the TARDIS console. Or ‘tumultuous buffering’ as the authors have it.

Lakertyans still have the remnants of tails under their clothes. They have yellow skin and patches of mother-of-pearl-like scales on their arms and face. The Rani is a ‘Time Lady’ who, we’re told, the Doctor considers to be ‘more brilliant than himself’. As well as Einstein, the Rani’s collection of genii includes Charles Darwin, the physicist Niels Bohr and Louis Pasteur as well as figures from other planets such as Za Panato and Ari Centos. While the previous Doctor was six feet tall, the new one has to get used to being five feet six, hence all the falling about. He studied thermodynamics at university while the Rani specialised in chemistry. Unlike the Doctor, the Rani has never regenerated, having led a life of extreme caution. She escaped the predicament of a Tyrannosaurus Rex rapidly growing to full size due to time spillage in her own TARDIS when the creature grew too big and its spine snapped against the ceiling of the TARDIS [see Mark of the Rani].

Mel went to school in Pease Pottage, Sussex (it’s not just where she lived when she met the Doctor, she grew up there) and she once played the third witch in a production of Macbeth. As she confronts the stranger who is the new Doctor, she improvises a weapon with an acetylene torch; the Doctor uses a stool as a shield, until the seat catches fire. Later, the Doctor steps aside as a Tetrap falls into a bubble trap (on TV, he actively pushes it). He uses a penknife to release himself from the Rani’s cabinet. A Tetrap steps on a phial that Mel has dropped, accidentally smashing it and releasing a rapid-action fungus that engulfs the creature and suffocates it. At university, the Doctor and the Rani had enjoyed ‘many an academic battle of wits’ in debates. Instead of dismantling an ornamental decoration, Ikona pulls some cable from a videogame and hands it to Mel to strip for wire. When she’s finally captured by the Tetraps, the Rani is suspended upside down from the ceiling of her TARDIS.

Cover: A final photographic cover and it’s one that actually shows something interesting from the story – namely the Tetraps hanging upside down (a publicity release with an early rejected cover used the neon logo and artwork by Tony Masero of the Tetrap lair, but printed the wrong way up, to show the Tetraps, er, not upside-down). We have the introduction of the Oliver Elms logo. Alister Pearson painted a much more traditional cover for the 1991 reprint, with the Rani, a Tetrap, the new Doctor, the planet Lakertya, the space brain and a lump of strange matter all jostling for space. 

Final Analysis: A huge improvement from Terror of the Vervoids, this novelisation is less giddy and much less overwritten. A good job, as it has one of the most insane plots of any Who adventure (and I have always utterly adored it). While the Bakers used lots of words to create their Vervoids on the page, the description still didn’t successfully build a mental picture of what it was supposed to look like (a difficult task without saying ‘a mash of genitals’!). The summary of the Tetrap follows the slow build to what we saw on TV – multiple points of vision, the odd claw or foot – before the final reveal as Urak jumps out and surprises Mel:

The vulpine, rodent-like face was covered with a gangrenous, oily down. Splayed, moist nostrils and thin sucking lips were dominated by a single luminous eye that glared unblinkingly from beneath a cockscomb of bristle. The veined, bloodshot orb had an enlarged pupil with a green halo.

As if this did not create an ugly enough apparition, above each delicately pointed pink ear, a similar eye bulged.

A fourth eye adorned the back of the Tetrap’s skull. These four eyes were the reason for the three hundred and sixty degree perspective: the quadview.

A predatory grimace exposed razor-sharp cuspids as the repulsive half-ape-half-rat leered at Mel. Then a venomous forked tongue spat at her!

That isn’t to say the authors are not at their verbose best, just that it’s a lot more easy to take in this time. The decision to make the alien language of Tetrapyriarban just… English backwards is hilariously dumb though. Especially when, having come up with this idea, they then explain it. Madness! Similarly, the miraculous substance the Rani seeks is called ‘Loyhargil’, a fact revealed in a chapter called ‘Holy Grail’. Haha – marvellous.

Chapter 117. Doctor Who – The Sensorites (1987)

Synopsis: The TARDIS lands on a spaceship orbiting an alien world. The crew of the ship appear to be frozen but suddenly they wake up, dazed and confused. Two visitors from the planet arrive and insist the travellers join them on their world. Leaving Barbara behind on the ship, the Doctor, Susan and Ian meet the Sensorites, a race of beings with telepathic abilities and a sensitivity to bright light. But there is revolution from within as a small faction of Sensorites plot to take control. Meanwhile, Ian falls victim to a mysterious illness…

Chapter Titles

  • Prologue
  • 1. Strangers in Space
  • 2. War of Nerves
  • 3. The Dreams of Avarice
  • 4. The Unwilling Warriors
  • 5. The Quest for Freedom
  • 6. Hidden Danger
  • 7. A Race Against Death
  • 8. Into the Darkness
  • 9. Surrounded by Enemies
  • 10. A Conspiracy of Lies
  • 11. The Secret or the Caves
  • 12. A Desperate Venture
  • Epilogue

Background: Nigel Robinson adapts scripts by Peter R. Newman for a 1964 story, breaking the record for biggest gap between broadcast and novelisation (22 years, six months, three weeks).

Notes: A moody prologue establishes the survey ship above the atmosphere of the Sense Sphere. The ship is nearly a fifth of a mile long and was nearly at the end of its four-year mission when it became caught in that region of space. There’s an elegiac introduction for Susan: No longer a girl, and not yet quite a woman, her closely cropped hair framed a face of almost Asiatic prettiness, and her dark almond eyes belied an intelligence far beyond her tender years. Barbara is tall and tidy, in her late-twenties and with a ‘stern purposeful face’ that possesses ‘a melancholy beauty’. She’s also dressed in clothes appropriate to the 1960s, though hers are more conservative than Susan’s, reflecting ‘her maturer years’. Ian is said to be a ‘stocky well-built young man, while the Doctor is ‘an intellectual giant’ and ‘an alien cut off from his home planet by a million light years in space and thousands of years in time’ (finally – someone knows that light years are a unit of distance!). We’re reminded of the travellers’ recent moral dilemma over the culture of the Aztecs as well as their first meeting in the junkyard.

Maitland is provided with an efficient reason for accepting the travellers’ lack of 28th-century knowledge, assuming they’re from an earlier time, pre-hyperspace-travel, when cryogenics were commonplace; it’s apparently a frequent experience for modern travellers to overtake those from previous generations. Ian and Barbara’s rather slow onscreen journey through the corridors of the ship is transcribed as a hideous ordeal where they’re surrounded by evil spirits and bogey-men. The Sensorites are described as possessing an ‘almost Oriental inscrutability’ (a phrase that may trigger some modern readers who may view it as representing outdated imperialism, but is less distressing in the UK where many Chinese-themed takeaways and restaurants still use the word in their name).

The Doctor identifies the humans as being members of a lost Interstellar Navigation, Exploration and Research party (‘INNER’, correcting a contradiction on-screen between what Hartnell says ‘I-N-N-E-R’ – and what the badge reads – ‘INEER’). The Sensorites provide Susan and Barbara with a 3D holographic map of the city and the caves. The final argument between the Doctor and Ian is omitted (even though the very next novel to be released follows on directly from this). Instead, Barbara fears for the future of the Sensorites now that first contact with humans has been made:

Maitland, Carol and John were good people and would guard the Sensorites’ secret well. But she remembered other instances in Earth’s history when promises had been made and then broken; when secrets had been kept and later betrayed. She remembered the dreadful consequences of such actions: the callous exploitation of the Indians of North America, the Aborigines of Australia. In their own naive way the Sensorites were just as helpless as them.

Cover: Nick Spender’s cover shows the Doctor, a Sensorite and a bloom of deadly nightshade. Spoilers, Nick!

Final Analysis: As with The Space Museum, The Sensories is unlikely to be a favourite for many – as pointed out by Tim Worthington ; even if you’re a fan of the first Doctor, it’s slow, small-scale stuff that feels rather dated now. As the editor of the Target range at this time, Nigel Robinson was cautious about adapting a novel himself, so took on this unloved adventure. And it’s a surprising success. Firstly, Robinson captures the regular characters beautifully. Secondly, he effectively increases the menace without rewriting what is seen onscreen; instead, he provides insight to the mental terror experienced by Ian and Barbara, as well as the attacking beast in the caves, which on TV is obviously just a dishevelled man. He brings a much greater depth to the rather generic and unintentionally comical Sensorites, imbuing them with a sense of culture that helps to explain away some of the more patently ludicrous plot holes; and there’s even compassion for the human survivors of the crashed rocketship:

They weren’t evil – like all men at war they believed totally in the rightness of their mission but they were mad, and what they were playing at was no more than an elaborate and very deadly game of soldiers.

This is all the most surprising when we remember that though Robinson has edited many works by other authors by this point, this is his very first self-penned novel. It has all the efficiency of a Terrance Dicks, the empathy of Malcolm Hulke and Ian Marter’s ability to heighten the sense of menace. I’m looking forward to seeing what he can do with a more worthy story.

Chapter 103. Doctor Who – The Twin Dilemma (1986)

Synopsis: Peri has just witnessed her new friend die and be replaced by a completely different man. Unstable after the trauma of regeneration, this new Doctor is loud, violent and self-obsessed – and Peri is terrified of him. Deciding to become a hermit on a barren moon, the Doctor instead becomes entangled in a policeman’s investigation into the kidnapping of hyper-intelligent twins. The culprit is someone the Doctor once knew, but is now enslaved by a megalomaniacal slug with mind-boggling ambitions.

Chapter Titles

  • 1. Home Time
  • 2. The Maladjusted Time Lord
  • 3. Enter Professor Edgeworth
  • 4. Mestor the Magnificent
  • 5. Titan Three
  • 6. An Unsafe Safe House
  • 7. The Reunion
  • 8. Jaconda, the Beautiful!
  • 9. End Game, Part One
  • 10. End Game, Part Two

Background: Eric Saward adapts the scripts by Anthony Steven for a 1984 serial.

Notes: Professor Archie Sylvest is a university lecturer who lives with his wife, Nimo, and their 12-year-old twin sons live at 25 Lydall Street, the only Georgian terrace left standing in a metropolis of ‘mirror-smooth’ and ‘flameproof, plastic buildings’. He has an android babysitter for the boys, which he knows they hate. Sylvest is scared of his children, something the boys exploit. He takes solace in harbouring murderous thoughts towards them (a strategy suggested by his therapist to help suppress his fears) while drinking too much Voxnic in the company of an attractive computer programmer called Vestal Smith. When Sylvest returns home drunk and discovers his sons’ disappearance, his concern is less that they might have been hurt and more that they might be used in some nefarious scheme or other.

The Time Lord process of regeneration is the work of a hormone called ‘lindos’, which works at lightning speed to repair every cell in the Time Lord body. An illustration of regeneration’s random nature comes in the story of Councillor Verne, whose stunning beauty distracted his peers from his unsuitability to office; his subsequent regenerations saw him grow increasingly unattractive until he became a ‘hideous monster’ who so distressed the then-Lord President that he ordered the Verne creature to be destroyed.

The new Doctor initially misunderstands Peri’s distress, but then apologises to her as he realises how terrified she must be. Peri is relieved and reassured – until she sees his new costume:

… each panel of the coat was quite different in texture, design and colour. This wouldn’t have mattered quite so much if the colours had blended, but they seemed to be cruelly, harshly, viciously at odds with each other. In fact, the coat was so gawdy it would have looked out of place on the back of a circus clown…. The whole ensemble was finished off with a waistcoast which looked as though someone had been sick on. (For all Peri knew, someone had.) The final touch was a livid green watch chain that at some time must have been stolen from a public lavatory.

Delightful! As she fights off the Doctor’s frenzied attack, Peri grabs the mirror in the hope of smashing it to use as a weapon against him.

The personal history of Professor Bernard Edgeworth – aka the Time Lord Azmael – is recounted: Like the Doctor, Azmael grew tired of life among the Time Lords and chose to retire; unlike the Doctor, the High Council decided Azmael was too dangerous to be allowed to escape their control and chose instead to kill him; they despatched ‘Seedle Warriors’ to assassinate him, only for the bloodthirsty squad to massacre the inhabitants of Vitrol Minor, where Azmael was hiding; Azmael brought legal proceedings against the High Council, who retaliated by framing him for their own crimes; Azmael’s last course of action was to gun down the High Council in their chambers and flee to the planet Jaconda. The specific species of gastropod that lays waste to Jaconda is the Sectoms. We also learn of the history of Titan Three, formerly home to the Mastons of Maston Viva, who fell victim to the generally bleak atmosphere of the planet and committed mass suicide, leaving behind their research equipment for Azmael to find.

‘Mestor the Magnificent’ is nearly two metres tall and considered ugly even by other gastropods. To allow him to stand upright, Mestor has grown two small legs that make him wobble as he walks, and two tiny arms, which serve ‘no particular function’ except to gesticulate as he speaks. 

His face, what there was of it, was humanoid in form. As he did not have a neck, head or shoulders, the features had grown where what would have been the underside of a normal slug’s jaw. As though to add to the peculiarity of a gastropod with a human face, the features were covered in a thin membrane.

Peri observes that the Doctor’s delusions lead him to act like Sherlock Holmes, Hern the Hunter (a dig at Doctor Who’s ITV rival Robin of Sherwood?), an explorer called Musk and a country squire. She apparently ‘never even grasped the fundamentals of the microwave oven’. The issue of the time delay with the matter transporter is removed; although Peri dematerialises first, the pair return to the TARDIS at the same time.

The planets that form part of Mestor’s plans are called Muston and Seniel  The Doctor recalls his past companions, including a rather brutal summation of Adric and his ‘childish antics’, a desperation ‘to be loved and accepted for what he was’, which prevented the Doctor (or at least, this incarnation) of ‘ever being able to fully praise, help or ultimately like him’. The Doctor’s first meeting with Mestor is delayed until the climax – their prior conversations conveyed via a hologram link.

Cover: Due to a breakdown in negotiations, an earlier cover showing Colin Baker was rejected (the actor’s agent enquired how much his fee might be for using his likeness and the publisher, misunderstanding the enquiry as a demand for payment, panicked and cancelled the already completed artwork). Andrew Skilleter’s second painting offers up a very green cover featuring a Jacondan, Mestor and some gastropod eggs. The 1993 reprint used Andrew Skilleter’s art for the VHS, again showing a Jacondan and Mestor, but this time joined by the Doctor.

Final Analysis: This is more than just an adaptation; its position in the history of Doctor Who offers us a little insight into events behind the scenes. It was written and published before the increasingly public fall-out between Eric Saward and producer John Nathan-Turner, but the causes of Saward’s dissatisfaction can be seen here in his depiction of the lead character. Even though it’s the post-regenerative monster that he’s writing, and even though he turns the self-serving and cowardly acts into something more whimsical (thinking he’s Sherlock Holmes etc), some of Saward’s negativity is still very much evident. In the final confrontation with Mestor, he frames this Doctor as sounding ‘more like a street bully than a Time Lord negotiating with a creature capable of taking over the universe’ and his pleading with the despot is ‘foolish, almost childish’. The conclusion to the tale is much less confident and reassuring than on TV. Peri even tells the Doctor she just wants to go home.

‘… whatever else happens, I am the new Doctor. This is me whether people like it or not.’

The statement was as bland and as sterile as it sounded.

Peri hoped that she had caught a glimpse of a smile as he uttered it.

If she hadn’t, this particular incarnation of the Time Lord would prove to be a very difficult person indeed.

Hugo Lang is also subject to a character assassination, the dogged and determined police officer becoming a self-serving and ruthlessly opportunistic man who pursues the twins only for personal glory and who decides to stay on Jaconda to extort money from Mestor’s chamberlain.

This is still a diverting read though, as Saward tries hard to make it more entertaining than he managed to make it on screen. As with the fox in The Visitation, Saward once again uses the form of an animal to witness events; the arrival of Azmael’s ship and his kidnapping of the twins goes undetected by anyone on Earth except a ginger cat, who prides himself on knowing what is happening before anyone else and vows to tell nobody about what he’s seen. His telling of the circumstances of Hugo Lang’s crash on Titan Three make for a scene straight out of Star Wars and, as the quote above shows, he succeeds in making Mestor a horrifying and fearsome presence. 

We’re now in the period where authors were encouraged to attempt something other than a straight retelling of the TV show and for many readers, the episodes would still be fresh in the memory. Saward attempts something in the style of Douglas Adams as his narrative regularly drifts off to discuss various tangentially related topics: A mention of Azmael’s revitalising modulator leads to a detailed history of the life and convoluted death of the machine’s inventor, Professor James Zarn, as well as the results of his other great scientific success, involving the Social and Sexual Life of the Veedle Fly; the acid that the Doctor uses to attack Mestor is Moston acid, which ages its victims to death and which is a product of Professor Vinny Mosten, about whom we also discover more than we’d ever hoped; even the floor of Mestor’s chamber, decorated with a celebrated Jacondan mosaic, inspires a further condensed history lecture. Whether or not this is a successful approach is down to personal taste. Personally, I rather enjoyed it, even if I was slightly worried every time a new brand name or invention popped up. Stop trying to make ‘Voxnic’ happen, Eric. It’s not going to happen.

Chapter 101. Doctor Who – The Gunfighters (1986)

Synopsis: In the old town of Tombstone, the Doc’s name’s in doubt / He wanted a dentist but his luck ran out / Now the Clantons are coming – they’ll all be here soon / There’ll be blood on the piano at the Last Chance Saloon…

Chapter Titles

  • Prologue
  • 1. Landfall in Tombstone
  • 2. The Last Chance
  • 3. The Brief Career of Dead-shot Steve
  • 4. A Funeral is Arranged
  • 5. Notice to Quit
  • 6. Identity Parade
  • 7. Open Mouth Surgery
  • 8. An Offer Refused
  • 9. A Pardonable Error
  • 10. A Little Night Music
  • 11. And Some Durn Tootin’
  • 12. Arrest Is As Good As A Change
  • 13. The Red Hand of Tradition
  • 14. The Law and Doc Holliday
  • 15. A Very Nasty Little Incident
  • 16. Wyatt Plays It By The Book
  • 17. Pa Clanton Keeps a Welcome
  • 18. Ringo in the Morning
  • 19. Post Mortem
  • 20. Thought For Feud
  • 21. Dodo Draws a Bead
  • 22. The Entry of the Gladiators
  • 23. Come Sun-Up…
  • Epilogue

Background: Donald Cotton loosely adapts his own scripts from 1966.

Notes: You know I love a prologue! We open with a journalist called Ned Buntline, who made his name writing biographies of notable Wild West legends. Having previously spoken to Wyatt Earp, who refused to be drawn on certain inconsistencies in the myths surrounding the OK Corral, Buntine now comes to a sanatorium at Glenwood Springs, Colorado, to meet an elderly Doc Holliday, who is in his last days with tuberculosis. Holliday speaks freely about the TARDIS, ‘a kind of four-wheel buggy designed for ridin’ every sort of direction through eternity, without much decent respect for the laws of physics’.

Aboard the TARDIS, Steven reminds the Doctor of the time when they encountered ‘great, nebulous jelly-fish things… with poisonous what-nots’. Dodo claims she took a first-aid course, but didn’t do very well. When the TARDIS lands in Tombstone, it’s raining heavily. Behind the bar of the Last Chance Saloon is a, er, well as Buntine tells it, it’s…

…a shot-up oil-painting of a fat blonde in her birthday rig. Sitting on a cloud, she was being molested by a bunch of tear-away cherubs, who looked as if they’d been up several nights round a stud-game, and passing the nectar pretty free, at that.

… and then he gives us two verses of that song (only one of which was heard on TV). 

Dodo is wearing ‘a little number made up of scarlet furbelows and flounces trimmed with black lace’ with an oversized hat (or as Buntine claims, like ‘the proprietress of a broken-down cat-house in one of the less select quarters of New Orleans’). Steven has, according to the Doctor, ‘disguise[d] himself as Billy the Kid’. He took his advanced astronaut course at Cape Canaveral, where he learned to play ‘America the Brave’ on the piano. Dodo sees a poster for real-life star of the stage Eddie Foy – who makes a brief cameo towards the end of the story (and whose son, Eddie Foy, was a Hollywood movie star who Dodo might conceivably have seen). Kate’s surname is ‘Elder’, not ‘Fisher’ as on TV (and in the 1957 movie); the real-life Kate was formally ‘Mary Katherine Horony-Cummings’, but she was also known by the deeply unflattering ‘Big Nose Kate’. 

Doc Holliday’s new dentist’s chair had previously seen service at ‘the Death House in San Quentin’. Pa Clanton is standing for mayoral election and hopes taking up said office will result in free drinks for life at the Last Chance Saloon. Johnny Ringo is a keen student of the Classics and is, at the time of the gunfight, partway through the ten-volume edition of Caesar’s Gallic Wars. The Doctor’s discomfort with a gun results in him accidentally shooting two bystanders, though eventually he is said to have begun to ‘enjoy himself’. The Doctor and his friends leave in the TARDIS, its dematerialisation witnessed by Doc Holliday, Wyatt Earp and a few others. In the epilogue, Holliday concludes telling his story to Buntine, necks a bottle of whisky … and dies.

Doc Holliday did indeed die in 1887, staying at Glenwood Hotel, Glenwood Springs, Colorado. He was 36 years old (Anthony Jacobs, who played him on TV, was 48 at the time of broadcast).

Cover: Andrew Skilleter paints the Doctor with a stetson while Wyatt Earp walks down the street of Tombstone with smoking guns. 

Final Analysis: There are people who’ll still tell you that The Gunfighters is a ‘bad story’ or that it was the lowest-rated story ever (it really wasn’t). There’s even a sly dig at the production in the text of this book, where a passage begins ‘Meanwhile, at the Last Chance Saloon, the stage was already set – as if by an incompetent director.’ Fan elders have shaped opinion to the point where many people who haven’t even seen it know what they think of it. And they’re wrong. Utterly. They’re very quick to remind us that Doctor Who can tell ‘any kind of story’, but seem to bristle when the genre isn’t one they personally like or – worst of all – if the story veers into the realm of comedy!

While the historical adventures did tend to be outperformed on original transmission by the often less ambitious efforts featuring silver sets on alien worlds, as we’ve seen with these novelisations, the writers tried much harder to engage the brain with their characters, perhaps mindful that they’d be representing figures who’s actually lived, or possibly just because they preferred history to SF. In the best Reithian tradition, Donald Cotton clearly realised that the best way to ‘educate and inform’ was to entertain. In this adaptation, he once again relies upon a narrator who casts doubt upon the factual accuracy of other versions of the legend; in other words, he’s excusing and exploiting any historical mistakes in both the TV serial and all other conflicting adaptations. We’re presented with a further myth rather than a text-book account of the real events, yet Cotton’s characters feel like they might have actually lived and breathed. More importantly though, Cotton’s retelling of the tale is very, very funny. My favourite joke in the whole thing is where he describes the drunk Ike Clanton as speaking ‘blotto voce’. There’s also a lovely description of the Doctor operating the TARDIS controls: 

… clutching at an apparently haphazard selection of levers with the air of a demented xylophonist, who finds he’s brought along the wine list instead of the score.

There are some instances of swearing – two uses of ‘bastard’, eight ‘goddam(ned)’ and sixteen uses of ‘damn’. As the notes above illustrate, there’s also a degree of bawdiness to this not seen before (mainly involving Kate’s profession). 

Finally, it’s become a popular game in modern stories (including The Shakespeare Code and The Unicorn and the Wasp) to crowbar in as many metatextual references as possible, but we can trace this back directly to Donald Cotton. While some of these might have reasonable claims to be accurate contemporary phrases, the modern reader can play ‘Spot the Film Title’ throughout the text. To start you off, here are just a few: For a Few Dollars More (1965); The Wild Bunch (1969); Calamity Jane and Sam Bass (1949); Terror of the Plains (1934); Death Valley (1946); The Golden West, (1932); … and The Right Stuff (1983). 

Chapter 83. Doctor Who – Kinda (1984)

Synopsis: A small survey team has set up a base on a jungle planet to review it for possible colonisation. But when the Doctor and Adric are brought to the survey dome, they can already sense a tension in the air. Some of the survey team’s number have disappeared and another is clearly on the brink of a breakdown. Left alone in the jungle, Tegan falls into a deep sleep and finds herself trapped in a nightmare with a terrifying evil force. Her only chance of freedom will also release the Mara!

Chapter Titles

  • 1. Dangerous Paradise
  • 2. The Kinda
  • 3. Ghosts
  • 4. The Box of Jhana
  • 5. The Mara
  • 6. The Change
  • 7. The Vision
  • 8. The Dream Cave
  • 9. The Wheel Turns
  • 10. The Path of the Mara
  • 11. The Attack
  • 12. The Face of the Mara

Background: Terrance Dicks adapts scripts from 1983 by Christopher Bailey. Publication for this was delayed to give Dicks time to finish The Five Doctors.

Notes: Deva Loka is a planet of ‘rich sub-tropical jungles, and warm blue seas’. Tegan has close cropped hair and her stewardess uniform, so a combination of her looks from Seasons 19 and 20. Sanders notes that falling asleep on duty usually carries a death sentence but as Hindle’s overnight watch is voluntary, he can’t be punished. The TSS machine looks like ‘a kind of squared-off parody of the human form’. Todd is referred to as ‘Doctor Todd’ throughout. Hearing the names of the inhabitants of the dome, the Doctor identifies the expedition as being of Earth origin (as in many novels set during Earth’s expansion across the universe, the homeworld is said to be overcrowded). Only one of the missing survey team – Roberts – is named on screen, but here we learn that the other two were Stone and Carter. The three people in Tegan’s dream are not named. Doctor Todd identifies the Kinda jester as ‘Trickster’, a ‘symbolic figure from Kinda ritual’. 

Cover: A slight step up in the photographic covers as there are two elements from the story that aren’t the most boring they could possibly be (the Doctor and a TSS Machine) – they finally learn how to do a decent montage just as the photographic covers are dropped for good [but see Time and the Rani]. We’ll have to wait until the 1991 reprint for Alister Pearson’s composition showing the bleached-out features of Dukkha, the Doctor, the Mara wrapped around a Kinda necklace and a sinister leering Tegan.

Final Analysis: I love Terrance Dicks – really I do – but this is a story that really needed to have been novelised by the original author. I’d have adored that extra insight into Christopher Bailey’s vision because, like many fans, I didn’t appreciate just how majestic this story was on first viewing (incredibly, it came bottom of the Doctor Who Magazine season poll, in a season that contains Four to Doomsday and Time Flight!). As ever, Dicks kindly improves on elements that didn’t quite work on TV: As the Mara detaches itself from Aris he ‘seize[s] it in a passion of hatred, as if determined to throttle it with his bare hands’ (as opposed to wiggling a rubber snake to make it look animated); while the Mara itself is larger than ‘any natural animal, it lashed about the clearing in a furious writhing coil. Its markings were red and black and white, and the fierce yellow eyes glowed with hatred’.

Chapter 80. Doctor Who – Arc of Infinity (1983)

Synopsis: Aided by a traitor, a being from an anti-matter dimension breaks into the Time Lord databanks to steal the Doctor’s bio-data. When the Doctor is later attacked by the being, the Time Lords step in and he is summoned to return home to Gallifrey. There, he learns that the the anti-matter being is trying to create a foothold in this dimension, something that could destabilise the universe. Seeing no other solution, the Time Lords sentence the Doctor to death, but at the last minute he is rescued by the mysterious entity. The Doctor flees Gallifrey for a reunion in Amsterdam…

Chapter Titles

  • 1. Deadly Meeting
  • 2. The Horror in the Crypt
  • 3. Recall
  • 4. Death Sentence
  • 5. The Prisoner
  • 6. Termination
  • 7. The Matrix
  • 8. The Traitor
  • 9. Unmasked
  • 10. Hunt for Omega
  • 11. Transference
  • 12. Omega’s Freedom

Background: Terrance Dicks adapts scripts by Johnny Byrne for a serial that was broadcast just over six months earlier.

Notes: The appearance of Omega in negative is more than just a nifty special effect; it’s a result of him being projected from another universe! Colin’s passport was stolen (not just lost) while he and Robin had been in a crowded cafe; though it’s never stated explicitly, and despite certain ‘speciality’ cafes and their wares being fully legal in Amsterdam, this might be the real reason Colin’s so reluctant to go to the police. There are reminders of the events of The Three Doctors when Omega first attempted a return, and that the Doctor was once the President of the Time Lords. Connecting to the Matrix via the Crown is both ‘dangerous and stressful’ and is only attempted in grave emergencies. When Nyssa breaks into the termination room, she sets her staser to stun before shooting the guards – then sets it to kill before entering the chamber to confront the High Council (it’s especially chilling that the meek and mild Traken princess has been driven to contemplate murder).

The Ergon is ‘a hideous lizard-like creature with a long thin skull, ending in a mouthful of fangs’, though it’s also described as ‘insectoid’; when it dies, Omega shrieks and twists convulsively as his link to the creature is severed. In the story’s final scene, we learn that Robin was able to get a new passport after all. Yay!

Cover: Worst cover ever? Could be – the Doctor and Hedin crudely cut out of the same photo and slapped onto an orange background. Meh… Thankfully, in 1992, Alister Pearson gave us a splendid piece of art for the reprint, depicting the Doctor and Omega (fading from negative to positive) against a background of the Matrix, framed in a double-diamond shape and an orange universe. Controversially, the diamond motif and a very similar layout were used by Pete Wallbank for the VHS cover.

Final Analysis: It’s fitting that co-creator of the Time Lords Terrence Dicks has novelised the majority of Gallifrey stories so far (though the other creator, Malcolm Hulke, covered two stories with brief Time Lord scenes); he knows them better than anyone and it’s reassuring to have him here on quite a continuity-heavy tale, explaining the relevant or subtext where appropriate. He tries his best to make things dramatic for the main villain – who effectively sits in a chair until the final chapter – and the image of Omega like a snake ‘sloughing off its old skin’ is much more effective than the deflating rubber mask on screen. 

We might also note that Colin Baker’s casting as the next Doctor had already been revealed around the time Terrance was writing this, and the character he plays here, Maxil, is described as ‘burly’ and ‘square-jawed’. I wonder if we’ll see that pop up as a description for the Sixth Doctor? We’ll have a long wait to find out…

Chapter 77. Doctor Who – Four to Doomsday (1983)

Synopsis: The TARDIS lands on a huge spaceship heading towards Earth. The inhabitants appear to come from different periods in Earth’s history, providing entertainment for three amphibious Urbankans called Enlightenment, Persuasion and the imperious Monarch. Given the freedom to explore the ship, the Doctor and his friends begin to understand the terrifying scale of Monarch’s ambitions…

Chapter Titles

  • 1. Ship of Mystery
  • 2. A Meeting with Monarch
  • 3. The Transformation
  • 4. The Invaders
  • 5. The Explorers
  • 6. The Android
  • 7. The Convert
  • 8. Tegan’s Gamble
  • 9. Death Warrant
  • 10. Reprieved
  • 11. Riot!
  • 12. Spacewalk

Background: Terrance Dicks adapts Terence Dudley’s scripts for the 1982 serial. When Dicks said that scriptwriters cottoned on that they could write the books and get all the money, I suspect this is who he was specifically referring to – see The King’s Demons. This followed Castrovalva on TV, so that’s another pair of stories to be released consecutively.

Notes: Terrance gets his first go at this TARDIS crew, so we get decent descriptions of them all: Nyssa is ‘an attractive-looking girl with brown hair and an aristocratic, somewhat haughty air’; once again, Adric is ‘a smallish, round-faced youth wearing a yellow tunic’; the Doctor’s ‘third, least willing companion [is] an ‘Australian air-hostess called Tegan Jovanka’ who is said to be ‘exceptionally forceful, even for an Australian’; and the new Doctor, who we’re told is now in his fifth incarnation, is a ‘rather slight, fair-haired young man with a pleasant, open face’ (entirely coincidentally a cricket pun there – Dicks had no idea  it was a term for how a cricketer grips the bat!). Each of the companions gets a one-line origin summary.

Observing a device that can reduce matter, Nyssa recalls that it’s a favoured method of the Master and was the way he murdered Tegan’s aunt. As the Doctor tells Monarch that only he can operate the TARDIS, it dematerialises under Tegan’s control, rather undermining his boast. Nyssa’s fainting cliffhanger that leads into the next story is omitted. 

Cover: An almost competent photo montage of Stratford Johns as Monarch with Peter Davison as the Doctor. Alister Pearson’s 1991 cover is just a noble portrait of Monarch with a suggestion of his chamber lightly etched into the background. 

Final Analysis: By this point in time, TARDIS companions exist solely to bicker and Terrance Dicks relishes the opportunity to show the previously impish Adric as an utter brat. Tegan’s brashness is accentuated too, which rather underlines how empty and bland Nyssa is. We’re even told that she manages to save the Doctor from execution because she’s ‘ standing unnoticed in the background, ignored because nobody considered her a threat’. Four to Doomsday is unlikely to be anyone’s favourite story, or indeed anyone’s favourite book; it does the job, nothing more.